MAJURO, Marshall Islands One of the world’s few COVID-free nations has chosen a date to reopen its borders for the first time since the epidemic started, while another is ready to loosen its rigorous safeguards.

Both the governments of the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM) and the Marshall Islands have said that although they are prepared for negative effects, stringent border rules must be abandoned.

According to authorities from both nations, the FSM will abolish border restrictions on August 1, while the Marshall Islands will drop quarantine procedures next month.

The Pacific Ocean is home to the only four nations that have never documented a COVID-19 incidence in their communities, according to the World Health Organization. The other two are Nauru and Tuvalu.

In the Pacific, the territories of Tokelau and Pitcairn Islands, as well as the self-governing state of Niue, enjoy the same free status.

FSM President David Panuelhe thought that setting an August 1 start date would inspire his population of little more than 100,000 people distributed over more than 600 islands to maximize vaccination coverage.

“Deciding to open the nation’s borders on August 1 is tantamount to willfully choosing to bring COVID-19 into the FSM soon afterwards,” he stated in a Friday statement.

“As a consequence, a decision must be taken to convert the nation from COVID-19 free to COVID-19 protected.”

Beginning August 1, visitors to FSM will be required to produce evidence of complete vaccination and a negative COVID-19 test.

The Marshall Islands, with a population of 60,000 people, has one of the world’s harshest border regimes, forcing guests to waste three days in  isolation in Hawaii, then a fortnight in the Marshall Islands.

However, limits will be relaxed as early as next month, according to government Chief Secretary Kino Kabua.

The National Disaster Committee, which she leads, is expected to suggest that the Hawaii component be dropped and the quarantine time in the Marshall Islands be cut to 10 days.

“The present quo is neither feasible nor sustainable,” Kabua told AFP.

“We should really be discussing what the ramifications will be when the virus is released into the population, as well as how to cope and go ahead.”

According to Secretary of Health Jack Niedenthal, the Marshall Islands are better positioned to reopen than many Pacific countries owing to a high vaccination rate and superior fast testing capabilities.

He did, however, caution that the virus may still enter the country, citing an epidemic in American Samoa, which has a comparable population and vaccination rate to the United States.

“They’ve had 30 COVID fatalities in little over two months,” he added.

“That’s two months of every other day [COVID-19] funerals. An epidemic of this virus might cause months of school and company closures, with substantial social and economic consequences.”

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